Forestry News

As a VFA member, you're kept up to date with forestry news through our e-newsletter What's Happening in Virginia Forestry Today.  See our most recent issue below:

75 years of VFA

   What's Happening in Virginia Forestry Today?

February 24, 2018

Sponsored By:  

ArborGen Ad 

In This Issue...

What's Happening at VFA?

General Assembly Update

VDOF Moves to Five-Day Work Week

Secretary Ring Announces the Appointment of the Special Assistant to the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

Sidebar items:

VFA Membership Benefits

Contribute to the Virginia Forest Resources PAC Online

Sponsor an Issue of What's Happening...?

VFA Membership Benefits

VFA Members receive discounts from the following organizations:

The codes needed to receive these discounts can be accessed by logging into your member profile or by contacting the VFA office. 

Contribute to the Virginia Forest Resources PAC Online

Influencing public policy is a tough assignment, especially when it comes to our forests. The Virginia Forest Resources Political Action Committee (VaForest PAC) provides a means to educate our policy makers on the importance of forestry to Virginia and gives financial assistance to candidates who recognize and support forestry interests.  You can now contribute to the PAC online by clicking here.

 Sponsor an Issue of What's Happening...?

Looking for a way to promote your company/organization while supporting your association? Have a special story you'd like to share with other VFA members? You can do so here! Choose between a feature article or a simple advertisement. Your logo and additional information will appear here. See our Support Us page for additional information.


What's Happening at VFA?

February has been a busy month at the VFA office filled with visits to-and-from the General Assembly, meetings with VFA committee members, Summit planning, and the overall support of all VFA-related programs. Here is a look at how everything has been coming together:  

  • Executive Director Paul Howe and VFA are actively working during the Virginia General Assembly to advocate for the Virginia forestry community by monitoring and acting on legislation of vital importance to the needs of our members. Please read our General Assembly Update below to see where Paul's efforts have been directed over the last two months.
  • Executive Director Paul Howe attended the Rural Caucus Reception and Dinner where Governor Ralph Northam (pictured below) was the featured speaker. 

Governor Northam speaking at Rural Caucus reception

  • Paul has also been attending some of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus meetings. Pictured below are some General Assembly members at such meetings:  

Sportsmans caucus

  • The 2018 Forestry Summit Planning Committee, chaired by VFA Vice President Carl Garrison, has been working hard this month, finalizing Summit details and preparing for the conference. If you would like to support the 2018 Virginia Forestry Summit via sponsorship, silent auction donations, or becoming an exhibitor, please donate by clicking here or contacting the VFA office to receive a Summit Supporter form. Summit registration will open on March 1. 
  • Paul Howe and VFA Programs Coordinator Sarah Kammer, along with Virginia Tree Farm Foundation Board members President John Matel, Jen Gagnon, and Terry Goodwin, attended the 2018 American Tree Farm System National Leadership Conference in Alberquerque, New Mexico. Sarah became a trained Tree Farm facilitator while at the conference and John participated as a speaker during a concurrent session. 
  • The Virginia Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee met on Wednesday, February 7, at the Department of Forestry Office in Charlottesville.  Several reports were shared with the Committee, including SHARP Logger, Landowner Outreach & Education, Project Learning Tree, Virginia Tree Farm Foundation, Virginia Department of Forestry, and a VFA update. The Committee will meet again in June 2018. 

  • After months of surveys, research, meetings, and decision-making, VFA's Branding and Marketing Task Force, chaired by Brad Fuller, made a final decision on a logo and brand for the association. The results are top-secret as of now, but will be unveiled at the Virginia Forestry Summit on Wednesday, May 2. 
  • The Virginia Project Learning Tree Steering Committee met earlier this month to review 2017 program activity, as well as 2018 goals.  The Committee's work plan for 2018 will offer continued support for 50± PLT Educator Workshops, outreach to facilitators, and representation at several conferences.
  • Not only has VFA been preparing for the 2018 Virginia Forestry Summit, but we have also been visiting possible venues to host our 2019 Summit. VFA Vice President-elect John Magruder visited sites earlier this month with VFA Events & Communications Coordinator Elizabeth Buhl. Stay tuned for announcements in the next few months about where next year's Summit will take place. Pictured below is John Magruder uncovering new findings while visiting sites:  

 John Magruder visits Norfolk

  • Pictured below is VFA Executive Director Paul Howe with Delegate John McGuire at a reception hosted by Virginia Tech:  

Paul and Delegate McGuire

  • Events & Communications Coordinator Elizabeth Buhl was elected to serve as Director of Recruitment on the Board of Directors for the Virignia Chapter of Meeting Planners International. This position will allow Elizabeth to learn vital ways to engage both prospective and current members in an association, as well as strengthen her meeting planing skills. 



General Assembly Update

The Virginia General Assembly convened on January 10, 2018. Since entering into session, a total of nearly 3,300 bills, resolutions, and joint resolutions had been introduced for consideration by our state Senators and Delegates. Of this total, slightly more than 2,600 were actual bills that could make changes to the Code of Virginia. Well more than half of these bills have already failed to pass.

VFA has been diligently reviewing, monitoring, and acting on legislation with potential impact on our wide array of forest product businesses, woodland owners, forestry professionals, and other forestry stakeholder members. This list of bills and resolutions includes those primarily classified into groups of trucking and transportation, conservation of our water resources, tax and property rights laws with potential impact on landowners, energy, and numerous others concerning forest landowners and the forest industry.

We are also working on the state budget in terms of specific budget items of importance to forestry, particularly as applies to programs of the Virginia Department of Forestry.

The intense state advocacy aspect of VFA’s purpose will continue until the General Assembly’s scheduled adjournment on March 10. 

Following is a more detailed listing and look at some of the key legislation on VFA’s plate (click on the bill links to see the bills and General Assembly actions):

Trucking and Transportation

HB 125 – Delegate Terry Austin’s bill to add rough-sawn green lumber to the list of forest products eligible for the state’s overweight forest products hauling permit passed in both the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. VFA worked diligently to assist the Virginia Forest Products Association in advocating for this bill.

HB 1276 & SB 504 – Introduced by Delegate Scott Garrett and Senator Bill Carrico, both bills have been amended and are making their ways through the process. VFA served as part of a coalition to promote a potential future federal pilot program for increased truck weights using six-axle trailers to include the federal highway system. The bills now direct the Virginia Department of Transportation to convene a work group to consider such a pilot program.  VFA will continue to participate as this effort materializes.

VFA was also engaged in several other transportation-related bills, including HB 214, HB 636, HJ 89, SB 73, SB 561, and SB 971

Water Conservation

Of the numerous bills introduced with the intention to promote more efficient water usage, better manage natural water supply, protect water quality, and improve stormwater management regulations, VFA determined that Delegate Keith Hodges' bills were among the best legislative vehicles for practical and useful results. These were HB 494, HB 1035, and HB 1036. Each has passed in the House of Delegates and is receiving favorable treatment in the Senate.

VFA expressed concern about unintended consequences of HB 447 and HB 1186 as regards forestry and forest products manufacturers. Other bills of note, some helpful and some of concern, were HB 211HB 771, HB 801, HB 805HB 1185, HB 1206, HB 1234, HJ 93, SB 211, and SB 766.

Taxes and Property Rights

VFA testified or worked in favor of several bills strengthening land use property tax valuation and property tax exemptions for forest landowners, including Delegate Bobby Orrock’s HB 871, Delegate Les AdamsHB 1022, and Senator Frank Ruff’s SB 314. VFA followed the lead of partners Virginia Farm Bureau and Virginia Agribusiness Council for most of these bills, which passed in their body of origination. 

Delegate Matt Fariss’ HB 1460, Delegate Nick Rush’s HB 365, Delegate Bobby Orrock’s HB 1442, and Senator Emmett Hanger’s SB 81 were also favorable bills with tax implications potentially helpful to landowners.

Working with the Family Foundation and other partners, VFA also spoke in committees in favor of Senator Chap Petersen’s SB 278 and SB 809, augmenting property owners' compensation rights in cases of eminent domain actions. Senator Amanda Chase’s supportive SB 911 was incorporated into SB 809. This legislation appears on its way to passage.

VFA opposed HB 310 which sought to reinstate the estate tax in some cases. 


Various energy-related bills have been front and center during the General Assembly, with flagship bills HB 1558 (Delegate Terry Kilgore) and SB 966/SB 967 (Senators Frank Wagner and Dick Saslaw) being of major importance. VFA reviewed these bills and similar ones for any impact on use of woody biomass. VFA expressed concerns about HB 436 which would have eliminated biomass from the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Monitored energy legislation included HB 54, HB 946, HB 963, HB 1273, HB 1344, HB 1372, SB 855, and SB 965, among others.

Other Legislation

VFA assisted with such bills as HB 844, dealing with the state’s outdoor burning regulation, HB 987 and SB 567, addressing agricultural (includes forestry) nuisance complaints, and HB 1458, adding restrictions on dumping of animal carcasses on others property.

We worked to defeat HB 936, which would have prohibited a practical insecticide used in forestry applications, and HB 981, which would have imposed a five-cent tax on paper bags.


The House and Senate budget reports offered in response to Governor Northam’s proposed biennial budget differ significantly as a result of the approach or lack thereof regarding Medicaid and corresponding federal revenue. Conferees from each legislative body will hammer out a final product, with the following forestry-related items in the balance. 

Both the House and Senate included an additional $112,000 annually for the Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) Program as administered by the Department of Forestry (DOF), matching industry’s contribution to the Forest Products Tax. The discrepancy was addressed by Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate Charles Poindexter in their introduced budget amendments. 

The Senate removed $236,000 from the Governor’s budget for a one-year appropriation to jump-start production of containerized longleaf and loblolly pine seedlings at DOF’s Garland Gray Forestry Center nursery. The House retained the funding.

The Senate also dropped $107,500 in each year of the budget to increase operational funding needed for adequate staffing in the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, while the House maintained this support.

In the time remaining for this General Assembly, VFA’s highest budget priority is to work with its partners to protect the RT funding and urge Governor Northam to approve its inclusion in a final state budget. We will also encourage the General Assembly budget conferees to give consideration for funding DOF nursery enhancement and the Secretary’s operational needs. VFA members are asked to contact their legislators to voice support for these budget items. 

VDOF Moves to Five-Day Work Week

State Forester Rob Farrell announced this month that the Virginia Department of Forestry will be returning to a five-day work week. Employees will still have the option to utilize alternative work schedules and teleworking when approved by their supervisors as long as programs and work areas are available to VDOF customers during normal working hours five days a week. DOF headquarters and Regional Offices will implement the new schedule no later than July 1.

Secretary Ring Announces the Appointment of the Special Assistant to the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

Earlier this month, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring announced that Greg Evans will be joining her office as a special assistant. Greg has worked for the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) since 2012 where he is responsible for a statewide program focused on reducing the rate of upland forest conversion in Virginia.  He also leads the Department’s Chesapeake Bay program sponsored Healthy Watersheds Forests/TMDL partnership with the Rappahannock River Basin Commission and many other partners that successfully quantified the economic and water quality value of retaining forestland to help meet the state’s TMDL and Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) obligations. Greg then worked with local decision-makers to identify how to accomplish the TMDL and WIP goals while also meeting local economic needs at the same time. Greg will be supporting Secretary Ring's team while also still advancing a number of current initiatives he is working on over the next 180 days.  


State Capitol 

For more information on forestry news or other legislative items, and if you have any questions about VFA's representation of forestry interests at the General Assembly, please contact Executive Director Paul Howe.

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Virginia Forestry Association

3808 Augusta Ave.

Richmond, VA 23230